Saturday, October 21, 2023

Celebrating Mile Markers


A memory from childhood surfaced last week while driving through Kansas for a cousin's wedding: watching mile markers fly by on the side of the road. As the never-changing landscape tricked me into thinking we weren't gaining any distance whatsoever, the changing numbers on the mile markers reassured me that we were, indeed, making progress.

Now that I'm back home and finally attending to my current weekend project of sorting through DNA matches, I realize it would help to celebrate passing those significant mile markers here, too.

I've been using's ThruLines tool to sort through my many mystery cousins and place them in my family tree. I've felt like I am still stuck in the same place as I was, almost a year ago, in working on the ThruLines suggestions for my Tilson ancestors. Granted, my current target is Peleg Tilson, my fourth great-grandfather, so any cousin matches I find would be very distant cousins, indeed. Taking the time to trace each of seventy three DNA matches' line of descent from Peleg to the present is time consuming—at least, if that effort includes locating supporting documentation for each step through the generations.

For instance, in the way ThruLines organizes their readout for a given most recent common ancestor, the cousins are separated into subsets based on the respective child of the ancestor from whom they descend. So, in Peleg's case, I started at the top of the list with his oldest daughter Jennet. That meant tackling a list of twenty five matches, just from Jennet's line.

Clue: that took lots of time. It is not simply a matter of taking Ancestry's word for it that a line of descent is just how the majority of their subscribers said it was. I needed to find documentation before adding anyone into this collateral line.

I don't remember when I began the process, but when I finally closed out the last of Jennet's descendants in my match list, it occurred to me that it might be more encouraging to take time to celebrate passing that mile marker. After all, vetting twenty five cousin matches was worth celebrating—and I'll certainly need the encouragement to tackle the other nine of Peleg's children represented among my remaining DNA matches in the Tilson line.

Starting this weekend, I finally began the first of my DNA matches linked to Peleg's second daughter, Ruth Tilson. While this second iteration will certainly not be as taxing as the effort to complete the list for her sister Jennet's descendants, there are at least five DNA matches descended from Ruth's line. By the time I complete that list, albeit a far shorter one than my first challenge, I will take a bit of time to pat myself on the back for having completed that series, as well. We all need some encouragement along the way.

While some of the other Tilson lines descending from Peleg have only a few matches to confirm, there are two more which include at least ten DNA matches apiece. Working through each of these lines will help add to the records I've amassed concerning the collateral lines in this extended family. While that is encouraging in itself—it helps me meet one of my overarching research goals—it also occurred to me that if we don't celebrate our own research progress, perhaps there might not be much progress to follow. The whole tedious process reminds me that sometimes we need to be our own best cheerleaders.  

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